A final significant finding from the team's research is that an influx of dissolved organic matter from jellyfish blooms changes the make-up of the local microbial community.
"Dissolved organic matter [DOM] from jellyfish favored the rapid growth and dominance of specific bacterial groups that were otherwise rare in the York River," says Condon.
"This implies that jelly-DOM was channeled through a small component of the local microbial assemblage and thus induced large changes in community composition."
Overall, says Condon, the team's findings "suggest major shifts in microbial structure and function associated with jellyfish blooms, and a large detour of energy toward bacteria and away from higher trophic levels."
He adds that a host of factors, including climate change, over-harvesting of fish, fertilizer runoff and habitat modifications could help to fuel jellyfish blooms into the future.
"Indeed," he says, "we've seen this already in Chesapeake Bay. If these swarms continue to emerge, we could see a substantial biogeochemical impact on our ecosystems."
"Simply knowing how carbon is processed by phytoplankton, zooplankton, microbes or other trophic levels in space and time can lead to estimates of how much carbon energy is available for fish to consume," he says.
"The more we know, the better we can manage ecosystem resources."
|Contact: Cheryl Dybas|
National Science Foundation